** Author’s Note: Keep returning to this article as we update it with links to more player profiles in the days leading up to the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Rankings may also change based on last-minute news and rumblings coming out of the player interviews.
The 2023 NHL Draft promises to be exceptional, thanks to an abundance of elite talent. Connor Bedard, a standout center from Regina, stands out as the top prospect after his record-setting performance at the World Junior tournament. Bedard has the potential to be a franchise-altering player for the Chicago team.
After Bedard, four outstanding prospects emerge. Adam Fantilli from Michigan and SKA’s Matvei Michkov are highly regarded players, while Leo Carlsson from Orebro and Will Smith from the U.S. program showcase immense talent. In a standard draft, Carlsson and Smith would be strong contenders for the second or third overall picks.
Michkov’s status adds intrigue to the 2023 NHL Draft. Despite some flaws in his profile, most evaluators highly regard the player. However, his draft position remains uncertain as he is signed through the 2025-26 KHL season. Evaluating Russian prospects differs, especially considering the associated risks involved with KHL players.
First-Round Draft Order:
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Anaheim Ducks
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- San Jose Sharks
- Montreal Canadiens
- Arizona Coyotes
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Washington Capitals
- Detroit Red Wings
- St. Louis Blues
- Vancouver Canucks
- Arizona Coyotes (from OTT)
- Buffalo Sabres
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Nashville Predators
- Calgary Flames
- Detroit Red Wings (from NYI via VAN)
- Winnipeg Jets
- Chicago Blackhawks (from TB)
- Seattle Kraken
- Minnesota Wild
- Philadelphia Flyers (from LA via CBJ)
- New York Rangers
- Nashville Predators (from EDM)
- St. Louis Blues (from TOR)
- San Jose Sharks (from NJ)
- Colorado Avalanche
- Toronto Maple Leafs (from BOS via WSH)
- St. Louis Blues (from DAL via NYR)
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Montreal Canadiens (from FLA)
- Vegas Golden Knights
Top 3: The Standouts Most Draft Experts Have At the Top of Their List
This top three includes players who could easily be No. 1 overall picks if they weren’t all in the same group together. All have the potential to be difference-makers in the NHL as early as next season, with a couple potentially being top point producers in their rookie seasons.
No. 1: Connor Bedard: Regina, C, WHL
Connor Bedard is a highly talented player who will make an immediate impact in the NHL. His incredible wrist-shot ranks among the best in the league, causing goaltenders to look like they should just get out of the way and let him score. Bedard excels in every offensive aspect, from stickhandling to playmaking and skating. He is destined to be a point-producing force in the NHL and the Blackhawks will be building their team around him for seasons to come.
Bedard is set to be the top pick in the draft unless Chicago surprises everyone by selecting Adam Fantilli. That seems unlikely given the blowback that would result from not taking the best player in the draft since Connor McDavid in 2015. Bedard’s outstanding performance at the World Juniors, where he outshined older competitors, solidifies his status and the buzz surrounding him is palpable.
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic writes on June 5th: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bedard can do things with the puck that nobody else in the sport can replicate. I’m not talking about him compared to other prospects in this draft. I’m talking nobody.”
No. 2: Adam Fantilli: Michigan, C, BIG10
Adam Fantilli, a highly skilled player, would have a strong chance of going first overall in most draft classes. However, because of Bedard, a generational talent, Fantill is going to make the Anaheim Ducks very happy at No. 2. Fantilli’s impressive performance in the NCAA showcases his abilities, with 25 goals in 31 games. He possesses all the qualities of a top-line center, including size, speed, playmaking skills, and a precise shot. Fantilli’s remarkable skills and highlight-reel plays make him a potential NHL difference-maker.
Fantilli’s skating is his biggest weapon, making him one of the top skaters in this year’s draft. Alongside his other attributes, intense motor, and physicality, he could rival Bedard in the future, like the Crosby/Ovechkin or McDavid, and to a lesser degree, Jack Eichel battles.
No. 3: Leo Carlsson: Orebro, C, Sweden
A spot that might have previously gone to Matvei Michkov, Michkov is rumored to be dropping in the draft and the No. 3 spot goes to Leo Carlsson.
Carlsson, a rising star in the 2023 NHL Draft, brings a high ceiling and two-way impact potential. Despite his youth, he has excelled in the SHL, displaying composure and skill against seasoned competition. As a versatile playmaker, Carlsson effortlessly controls the puck and remains calm under pressure. His strong performances, including a notable showing at the 2023 World Juniors Championship, have drawn the attention of scouts. With his development continuing and transition to the NHL on the horizon, Carlsson is poised to make a significant impact for any team that selects him.
The Draft Gets Fascinating After Pick No. 3
After the No. 3 pick, the draft starts to open up a little. There are still players that many believe will be locks for the top five, but where they go and if someone like Michkov falls out of that group remains to be seen. This is all about who a particular team has a fondness for and whether they believe someone else in the Top 10 is worth moving up a few spots.
This a grouping that we may also see some NHL teams try to trade into.
No. 4: William Smith: USA U-18, C, NTDP
Will Smith is an offensive standout, known for his creativity and defensive reliability. As a top-line center for the NTDP, he draws multiple defenders with his deceptive plays and quick thinking. While his skating may face challenges in the NHL, his exceptional hands and playmaking compensate for it. Smith’s decision-making can be risky, but his offensive prowess and ability to outsmart opponents make him an exciting prospect with a bright future.
No. 5: Matvei Michkov: SKA St. Petersburg, RW, Russia
Matvei Michkov is a Russian prospect who rivals top pick Connor Bedard in sheer offensive ability. But, because of the Russian factor, there’s a fear his stock is dropping in the draft and he could fall as low as pick No. 10.
His puck skills and hockey intelligence set him apart, allowing him to create space and make precise plays. Michkov’s aggressiveness and confidence make him a thrilling player to watch, but he also delivers results on the ice. He’s a player who combines style with substance. Despite playing for a struggling HK Sochi team in the KHL, Michkov has an impressive 20 points in 27 games. His powerful shot and ability to create open shooting lanes stand out. Even without help or a strong team around him, Michkov’s individual impact is evident.
Picks No. 6 Through No. 10
- Ryan Leonard: USA U-18, RW, NTDP
- Dalibor Dvorsky: AIK, C, Sweden 2
- David Reinbacher: Kloten, D, Swiss
- Zach Benson: Winnipeg, LW, WHL
- Gabriel Perreault: USA U-18, RW, NTDP
The Rest of the Best: Picks No. 11 Through No. 20
- Nate Danielson: Brandon, C, WHL
- Oliver Moore: USA U-18, C, NTDP
- Samuel Honzek: Vancouver, LW, WHL
- Matthew Wood: UConn, RW, Hockey East
- Tom Willander: Rogle Jr., D, Sweden Jr.
- Brayden Yager: Moose Jaw, C, WHL
- Danil But: Yaroslavl Jr., LW, Russia Jr.
- David Edstrom: Frolunda Jr., C, Sweden Jr.
- Dmitriy Simashev: Yaroslavl Jr., D, Russia Jr.
- Colby Barlow: Owen Sound, LW, OHL
Other NHL Draft Profiles Worth Reading:
- 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Ryan Leonard
- 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Colby Barlow
- 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Michael Hrabal
- 2023 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Oliver Bonk
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